Footprints #4 – Watchers on the Whyestil

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by John A. Turcotte
Freely distributed by Dragonsfoot
AD&D
Levels 4-6

This adventure is a commando raid on a watchtower full of hobgoblins/gnolls/etc. It’s pretty straightforward and vanilla. The interesting bits are few and far between and it’s going to take some effort to run well.
Iuz the uber-cool has amassed an army. The elves are ready to smash it but they need the watchtower taken out first. Maybe I’m in a good mood this morning, but this is a hook I can get in to. Hiring a bunch of mercenaries or commandoes to go take one one item to make an assault easier seems like a reasonable thing to do. “Mercenaries” are never mentioned. “A call goes to Brave Heroes … ” blah blah blah. If you totally ignore that and instead think of 4th-6th level characters are pretty famous mercenaries then things make A LOT more sense. I find that substituting “mercenaries” for “adventurers” or “heroes” can save a great many bullshit hooks. Yeah, yeah, I know: different strokes for different folks … but viewing the PC’s as mercenaries in the Hussite/Reformation wars, or something like that, turns the “heroes” thing around enough that any old group of hobo’s could meet it. The whole “war” thing is only lightly touched on however the pretext of taking the watchtower to make things easier on the army is a decent one also. The elves are going in one way or another and this raid just eases the burden. You could expand on the idea a bit more and steal from a couple of WW2 movies … maybe once the group takes the tower the evil forces start to assault it, kind of like Pegasus Bridge “Hold until Relieved” kind of thing. I wish more adventures would do a little follow-up or consequences section. Some ideas, real ideas, for integrating the adventure as something more than a stand-alone would be nice. No, I’m not looking to be spoon-fed. I AM looking for a Play Aid that is actually a Play Aid rather than the bare minimum that currently seems to pass a “a full fledged adventure supplement!”

The island is sparsely described; just enough detail in case the group skirts the tower. In reality most groups will attack a small camp nearby and then move on to the tower. The tower is a pretty simple affair with just a couple of smallish levels and maybe five or six encounters on each level. There are several stairs between levels and enough varied elevation elements (towers, roof, etc) that the group should be sufficiently engaged in “Oh Shit!” moments. The encounters are the rough part of this. Or rather, they are just standard encounters. A watch post with a few humanoids in it. A jail. A barracks. The EHP room, etc. These are almost all just generic little encounters with little interesting going on. It falls in to the same trap of many by listing a room name and then describing the mundane details of the room. The mess hall has tables piled with filthy plates and bowls and stinking remains of past meals. That doesn’t really do anything to help me run the adventure. The adventure is laid out a standard dungeon adventure with a map and numbered rooms that are then described. But that’s not what this adventure is. It’s an assault on a guardtower. The tower might in fact have an interesting layout for an assault, but the lack of emphasis on that just turns this in to something that looks like every other throw-away product. This lack of focus on the core element shows through and as a result it seems like a muddled site, not really doing anything very well at all. There are some notes here and there about the guards responding but nothing really unified for the DM to take advantage of. Even something as simple as noting on the map where the creatures are would help a lot.

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One Response to Footprints #4 – Watchers on the Whyestil

  1. Fair enough.

    It was the first thing I ever wrote, and it was not play-tested which, I think, is the downfall for many “sub-prime” adventures. I never made that mistake again.

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